Issue Introductions

The Other Side of Cancer

Lillie Shockney gives a rundown of the inspiring articles and features included in the August 2021 issue, including stories of patients’ experience during the COVID-19 pandemic or “Covid cancer,” mental health, brain cancer, and a close look at caregivers.
August 2021 Vol 7 No 4
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship®; Co-Founder, Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators® (AONN+); University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer, Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Co-Developer, Work Stride-Managing Cancer at Work, Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions
Breast cancer survivor

In this issue of CONQUER magazine you will find some fascinating stories and insights. Let me highlight several of them for you.

There is a patient story about an oncology nurse navigator who ended up becoming a patient with cancer, and I am confident that as a result of her being forced to flip to the other side of the hospital bedside rail, she will use this newfound experience to benefit her and her patients as she interacts with them.

Most people think they know how they would feel, react, and cope with getting a diagnosis of cancer, but believe me, no one really knows. Until it happens. Ironically, this gal was 29 when she was told she had cancer. That means she was born the same year I was diagnosed with cancer (I am a 29-year cancer survivor currently).

One patient shared her breast cancer experience through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic, referring to it as “Covid cancer.” It certainly has been a challenge taking care of patients over the last 19 months, with everyone wearing masks that limit our ability to interpret facial expressions. And the feelings of isolation, when a patient must come alone, without family support.

There is also a story about OurBrainBank, a wonderful patient advocacy organization founded by the young woman whose story is told here who has very recently lost her life, as a result of her glioblastoma diagnosis. She was the recipient of one of our AONN+ awards several years ago. Her legacy lives on, demonstrating what an impact she has had in this world and will continue to make for decades to come.

Mental health is a hot topic right now, and long overdue. If you have been watching the Olympics, you are getting clued into even more issues associated with mental health and the pressure to perform. This article focuses on the emotional issues of young adults dealing with cancer. Just as their life is getting started, their life is derailed with such diagnoses. We must recognize their health needs that go beyond the physical needs, and provide the psychosocial support these young people need and deserve. Another article from a patient who is also a psychologist further addresses this issue.

Caregivers are busy taking care of their loved ones being treated for cancer. What happens when the caregiver becomes a patient with cancer? This does happen, and quite often. How can it not, when 1 in 3 people in their lifetimes will be diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer themselves? Read about this person’s experience.

Let me also remind all of you caregivers out there—while caregiving, do not skip your cancer screenings. Many caregivers do, and regret it later. Do the right thing, and remain on track for taking care of your own health needs, including screenings, eating a healthy low-fat diet, routinely exercising (power walking around your neighborhood is perfect!), and de-stressing in the evening before turning in for bed.

Also read the second article about bedside advocacy in this issue. It has very useful advice.

Finally, we have 2 articles on survivorship. One lets you take yourself on a weeklong journey of reflection and activity to help you de-stress and reset your buttons post-treatment. The other discusses the issues associated with survivorship care during the COVID-19 era of recovery. We all need coping skills now. Read about doing “acts of joyful distraction.” I love that idea!

Be well. Be safe. Mask up wherever needed.

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Last modified: August 19, 2021

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